Fic: ‘By the click of someone else’s slippers’ [5/7] [NC-17ish]

This entry is part 5 of 7 in the series By the click of someone else's slippers
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A certain level of angst develops from here on out. But in a way you might enjoy?

By the click of someone else’s slippers


S6 | NC-17(ish) | ~33,500 words total

Spike has spent the last few months in an AU LA with no memory of Buffy or even Sunnydale. Buffy comes to rescue him, but Spike’s not sure why she bothers. At the end of the day, though, it’s really just a rewrite of Smashed

[Chapter One]
[Chapter Four]

Chapter Five

Once they were back at the office Spike began to feel a little better. The wound was small enough to have closed some, leaving his insides to ache for what was going to be at least a week if not two. He downed a couple of pints of blood and with a little more whiskey to his name he decided he might just about pull through.

None of the birds had seen what had happened to Drusilla, of course. Spike figured she’d probably get herself to safety somehow, and most likely convince some hideous swamp creature to help her recover. She had a habit of falling on her feet, his girl, and even better without his help. He wasn’t going to shed a tear.

“I don’t know what I’m gonna do with these kittens,” the prettier Buffy was saying, the cardboard box still held in her arms. It smelt a bit, but she was missing her jacket, so he figured that piece of clothing history had been sacrificed as a bed for Ketchup’s litter. They were certainly mewing away. The cat herself was turning figures of eight around her owner’s ankles, purring. The whole get-up looked like a bloody cat food commercial. “They’re too small to take them away from Ketchup,” Buffy continued, in an actress’s voice, “but there’s no way we’ll be able to keep them on campus.” She sighed; a perfect lock of hair fell over her face. “I guess I’ll put a notice in the vet’s office when I take her in to get fixed.”

So, the stronger Buffy had been kind enough to bring Spike’s armchair up from downstairs. Lounging on it sideways, by virtue of the hole stuck in him, Spike demurred from offering any particular comment. Ridiculous or not, it was difficult not to appreciate the way this Buffy’s ankles were set off by cat, so he was content to watch.

“I guess we can let you know,” Cordelia came back with a reply, falling right for this Buffy’s charm, “you know, if we hear from anyone who’s interested.” Spike was glad he found himself immune. Although he couldn’t be certain what it meant that he was falling for the other one.

As it was, he figured the spell had to be broken now. The way he understood the loan shark’s curse, it was nothing more than a spiteful bit of vengeance, like whore’s footrot or bartender’s burning palms. It compelled him to find kittens and not rest until he did, but there wasn’t enough magic in it to make him take them to wherever the other him had got his from. His credit was shot; he’d made it clear the heavies wouldn’t help – this was just a last bit of bother to terminate the relationship. Given how this one had come with a side of alternate dimension, so it seemed – well, whoever this loan shark was, it was clear he and Spike’s relationship was not one that would be rekindled.

That was fine by him. Malibu Barbie would take her kittens; Action Barbie would piss off home and he would… What?

“You remember what I told you, right?,” Action Barbie herself was saying, arms crossed and still wearing the other’s slightly roughed up clothes. “About vampires?”

“Sure,” her double replied, with the smile of a teacher’s pet. “Make like the 80s; wear a crucifix; stay out of dark alleyways – and if in doubt, remember that a number 2 pencil goes through vamp meat like butter.”

“Got it,” Buffy confirmed, her back straight and her face serious, even without the bruise. After a couple of seconds’ silence, her face softened and she smiled an awkward little smile. “Well,” she told the other one, glancing over to the glass doorway, the night and the open road outside. “Good luck with everything.”

“You too,” the other agreed. With a glance his way, bizarrely, kitten-bearing Buffy leant forward and drew the Slayer into a spontaneous hug. She whispered something in her ear that Spike couldn’t catch, but it made Buffy blush, bite her lip and look down. It made Spike raise an eyebrow. If he’d been sitting upright, found himself possibly a little less drunk, then he might have preened at the attention. However, watching from his low position it mostly made him suspicious.

As the hug broke, the Vampire Slayer asserted herself again. “What are your plans for after college, anyway?” she asked, like she was hungry for the information.

The sorority queen looked surprised. “Oh,” she replied, glancing around the room at him and Cordelia, the room full of losers. “I want to be a lawyer,” she told them as if she was actually serious, leaning down to pick up Ketchup the cat. “Criminal law, you know, like in Legally Blonde.”

The reference went right over Spike’s head, but Cordelia seemed to have a clue what she was on about. Leaning forward so her desk creaked, she commented, “Uh. You know they don’t actually take fashion majors, right?”

“Sure,” Buffy replied, letting the cat into the box to a cacophony of yowls and gremlin-like scrabbling. Spike wondered whether it had really been worth it after all. “But my major’s Philosophy,” she added. “I’m really into Hannah Arendt, you know, on the nature of evil?” She looked around the room again, and Spike it was now the rest of them who were lost. You’re wasted on this place, Blondie, he tried to tell her with his eyes. Why couldn’t he fancy this one again? She bit her lip, avoided his gaze as she continued to explain, “It’s why I ran for president when I was a sophomore, so in senior year I could focus on my GPA?” Oh right, she was bloody sorted and sensible.

Cordelia and the other Buffy didn’t seem to believe it, sharing a look between one another. Spike supposed the pair of them thought they were the only ones to grow up out of being the high school prom queen. He rolled his eyes.

“Well,” Buffy finished, jingling her car keys as she adjusted the box of kittens. They all complained again; Spike winced. “Thanks for your help, I guess?” She spoke to Cordelia, “Send me the invoice for whatever I owe you and I’ll put a cheque in the mail.” Then she added in his direction, still not quite meeting his eyes, “Um… Get well soon.” It was as though she was scared of him or as if she actually did like the look of him, which should have been a turn on if he was anything other than completely fucked. Thankfully it only lasted for a second, before she turned to the other Buffy and told her, “Have a safe journey home.”

Then she was leaving, and Spike’s stomach sank further. Because of course, once this Buffy left then there was no reason for the other to stick around. No real reason for him to stick around. He shifted on his armchair, uncertain.

The silence was heavy once she was gone, and it seemed to take a few moments for anyone to decide what to say. Standing upright, as if she’d successfully read a tension that wasn’t in the room, Cordelia declared, “I’m gonna go and make some coffee. You two have a nice conversation.” And then within seconds she was leaving them to it, vanishing off down the little corridor. Spike growled.

“You’re not coming with me, are you?” Buffy said immediately, once Cordelia had gone.

At first Spike could only look at her, the serious lines of her face and how the pot plant on Cordelia’s desk set off the darker tones in her hair. She seemed to have made her peace with the idea: it brought even deeper stillness to her and Spike hated himself for being enchanted. “What makes you say that?” he asked eventually, treading carefully so as not to give away what he hadn’t yet decided for himself.

Buffy looked him up and down, or at least along the length of him where he was lying, still mortally wounded, thank you very much. She seemed to make a calculation. “Well,” she explained readily after a moment or two. “What have you got to come back to? I can’t give you anything; you don’t even remember anybody else. You seem to be happy here.”

Happy?” He almost laughed at her. The rest of what she said, made a decent case, of course, but she lost points on that one significant detail. “Did you miss the sign on the door where it says I’m a bleeding pet detective?”

Inevitably, Buffy glanced to see the sign. Spike wished he could burn it. “Yeah,” she confirmed, clearly agreeing that it needed to be done. “But you don’t have to be anymore, right? The spell’s broken.” And that was a good point – one which hadn’t yet quite sunk in. “You can do whatever you want; get Cordy to help you.”

The pity-me morose tone was back in her voice, but Spike wondered whether he really needed to notice. He wasn’t beholden to her by any means, and one half-finished hand job wasn’t enough to buy his loyalty. All right, when he’d dreamt about her she had been something to him, but she would be nothing again soon enough.

For some reason, though, it rankled him that she’d come all this way and yet nonetheless wasn’t even going to try. “Have you ever thought about asking nicely?” he queried, making her eyes rise up back to his. “I mean, you’ve tried assuming I’m going to come; you’ve tried brute force… Would it really hurt that much to just come out and say that you want me back in your world?”

For a moment, Buffy looked at him. Spike had been watching her quite a lot in the past few days, so the feeling of meeting her eyes wasn’t new. All the same, it seemed to make his kidney wound burn a little deeper. He could see it, this time, the churning anxiety that drove her, from a place that was fully real and yet beyond his comprehension. Would it hurt her? As she looked away again he realised that, actually, it really would.

Buffy left not long after coffee. She gave him the other pendant, ‘because she didn’t need it back home’, and popped out of existence right there in front of them. All that remained of her afterwards were some thin traces of her scent and a strong puff of ozone. It was like the lights had gone out.

“So,” Cordelia asked him, looking down from where she was perched on her desk. “How long before you go after her?”

Spike blinked, still laid out on his chair. He couldn’t work out what had given him away. “What are you talking about?” he blustered.

“Oh please,” the girl scoffed, throwing him a box of Advil. That was kind of her – Spike took the pills gratefully and picked up his whiskey from the floor to help them down. “I know your MO,” she told him as he sorted himself out. “This is just the mysterious girl in the dark alleyway, version 2.0. You know she’s gonna kill you; you figure she’s gonna hurt you; but part of you is hoping it won’t hurt quite so bad this time.”

Spike couldn’t tell whether she had a point or not. When he tried to suss out his feelings, he couldn’t be certain whether hope did in fact get a look in. It seemed unavoidable, going after this girl, the way it had done since she’d arrived, but he still couldn’t figure out why. “Look, it’s been fun, Cordelia, yeah?” Worryingly serious, Spike tried to explain as he popped his pills, “But you’re destined for better things. I’m destined for other things. And we can barely stand the sight of each other as it is.”

Cordelia smirked at him, which pretty much said all that he needed to hear. “Yeah,” she agreed, and they broke eye contact together.

“Look, pass us that phone, would you?” he asked as she readied herself to leave.

Apparently not trusting herself to say anything, Cordelia did so on her way out, stretching the cord from her desk to where he was lying.

“Ta, love,” he said to her, and she nodded, leaving the office without a backwards glance.

Once she’d gone, Spike rang the number that he somehow knew by heart. Despite what this whole incident seemed to say about him, he did pay his debts, and there was one more he had to ring in.

“All right, Lorne? It’s Spike. Yeah. It’s about that favour you owe me. I’ve got a girl who needs an agent – and not one of those money-grabbing wankers who’ll spin her along for a free dime. I’m talking about you, mate; someone who’ll get her work. Oh yeah; she knows all about demons and that, don’t worry – been working for me since November, hasn’t she? No – I’ve got… There’s just somewhere else I need to be…”

It was funny how the memories came back to him. One minute he was cursing blue murder as his comfy chair gave way to hard wooden floor, the next Spike was thinking to himself that it was just his luck to end up at the Magic Box. Then, however, it took him a moment to figure out what the Magic Box was and what on earth his memory of a magic shop had to do with what looked like a particularly run-down gym.

Eventually that part clicked together, and so it followed that he hoped he wasn’t alone, or else that Anya hadn’t set an alarm, which led him to figuring out who Anya was (Xander’s other half) and so on and so forth. When he added it all up on a scale, it didn’t seem to him that the gamble had paid off too badly. He’d probably miss Cordelia a bit, who had to be vastly underappreciated by Old Broodface, but there were actually some people in this version of his unlife that he didn’t hate. And he was resolutely uninvolved with anything to do with fuzzy creatures, which could only be a plus.

As for the reason he’d leapt in the first place, well, he wasn’t quite sure what to make of her. He did think she might have mentioned that he’d been painfully, obsessively in love with her for over a year now. Or else maybe that she’d died and had been torn out of paradise. It put a certain amount of her whining into perspective.

Quite what he was going to do now, Spike didn’t know, but he figured the first part of the job would be see what state his crypt was in. That involved getting himself upright, which wasn’t easy with a punctured kidney, and then making his way to the door.

His ears adjusted a bit slower than the rest of him, so it was only as he made his way up that he realised the Scoobies were out front.

He was struck by the sound of her voice, Buffy’s. It sounded the same as it had in the other world, naturally, but there was something different in how he perceived it here with his memories intact. The clarity of it, the way she was explaining whatever she was explaining without any real emotion at all… It drew him in like it had been drawing him in for days, but it repulsed him just as much. Right then he wanted nothing more than to be out of there.

Of course, lumbering as he was on his stomach wound, he couldn’t make it to the backdoor before someone came to investigate. And – trust his luck – it was her.

“Spike,” she said as she came through the door to the shop. There was no desperation in it; this was no call of desperation or surprise or shock. Instead, it was a straightforward, commanding address.

Naturally it had him turn to face her. “What?” Spike asked the woman he now figured out he did actually love. She looked the same, almost too much the same, and it was cutting right into him. He could barely meet her eyes.

“I didn’t think you were coming,” was all she said. There was no memory on her face of her begging him to stay, nor of her digging her little hand between his legs in that rather literal rendition of her power over him. She just stood there, back in her natural habitat of brick and graffiti wards; exercise kit that stank of her alongside Xander and Anya’s odd quickie.

In the other world, Spike thought, he’d been up for an adventure. As far as he was concerned here, however, the adventure had been and gone: he’d lived this life and now he was right back in it. It left him tired, which was why he asked, in the end, “How long was I gone?”

Buffy paused, which really said it all. As the silence hung he watched her, chewing over whatever dismal thing she didn’t want to say. It made his stomach sink. After all, he could still remember some of the things she’d said in the other place; it had sounded like more than the odd tea party had happened after he’d gone missing. Quite a lot more.

How long?” he pushed the question, as Buffy continued to say nothing, looking down. It was enough to make him angry, which thankfully was enough to stop him thinking about the pain. Nonetheless, he could feel his hands wanting to shake, incontinent and pathetic. And that just made him angrier. “Not expecting you to count the minutes,” he added, because apparently he always gave this girl an out. Fuck knew why; he was keeping his voice level and all. “But you must have some idea…”

“Time…” Buffy replied, enigmatically, catching his eye for a moment before she looked away again. It was all a bit much. “It moves the same in both dimensions…”

For a moment, Spike was nonplussed. Then he figured out what she was saying. Months. “You left me there for…” As much time as he remembered, doing his job – that was how long he’d been missing from Sunnydale, without anyone who cared enough to find him.

As Buffy blushed, Spike realised there were two ways to go with the mounting rage and, actually, plain sense of betrayal that he could feel inside of him. He could get him and Buffy into a fight, which he would lose given how he was injured, especially if they didn’t end up back in a situation that wasn’t in the mood for right at the moment. Or else he could leave, and avoid the risk that the jumble of torment inside of him would come out in that way it often shamefully managed to around Buffy.

It was fight or flight, ultimately, and like any beaten and battered bit of prey, Spike knew what he had to do. Buffy called after him, but she didn’t try very hard to follow.

If he hadn’t been shattered and in pain, Spike would have got trashed that night. As it was, stumbling through the door of his crypt to somewhere that was reasonably similar to how he remembered it, save for another layer of grime even he refused to call a patina – well, it was enough to send one bleeding corpse down into musty sheets and pretty much straight to sleep. The quarter-bottle of scotch he laid hands on was enough to send him off, but it was hardly enough to get him trolleyed into blissful ignorance, which was really what he thought he deserved.

In any case, he went to sleep without much bother, and was readily unconscious until what had to be around noon the next day to the itching feeling of sunlight encroaching through his walls and stomping girly feet hammering on his trapdoor.

“Spike! I know you’re down there!” came the stilted but not uncertain call. “You’re probably naked or something so I’m not coming down, but could you get up here? I have to be back next period or they’ll put in on my record…”

It was, of all people, Dawn Summers.

Rolling out of bed to find he had forgotten about his stomach wound, but that it was thankfully healing well enough not to find itself ripped completely open, Spike struggled into his nearest available clothes. Prying teenage eyes could only be stayed for so long, and he wasn’t quite ready to go full frontal on the sprog. There was a pang of disorientation as he gave a thought for his old hot shower (back to the jerry-rigged cold outlet for him), but if there was one thing he didn’t miss it was that bloody radio.

With a groan, Spike made his way up the ladder, not sure quite how he’d made his way down it, and emerged onto the upper floor.

“Oh my god!” the girl squealed when she saw him. “It’s true! It’s really true! You’re back!” She clapped her hands and everything, wonder pure and bright in her eyes and her mouth pulled into a true Californian rictus grin.

It was the reaction he would have liked from one or two other people. Rather than dwell on that, however, Spike gave into the enthusiasm and made his way up the last few rungs. “Keep your hair on, Bit,” he said, always maintaining those last dregs of cool he had. “Anyone would think I had a say in the proceedings.”

That particular statement clearly confused her, but she’d soon dismissed the feeling in favour of hassling him again. “But where did you go?” she asked him. “Buffy said you’d left us, but then there was this whole thing with Clem and nobody would tell me anything.” That part had clearly bummed her out; she had the pissed off look of any teenager in a snit but, like most things with Dawn, it was clear there was slightly more going on beneath the surface. “You don’t understand what it’s been like here without you.”

It was one thing to be thrown back into a world where no one had cared to find him. It was quite another to be thrown back into a world where Dawn looked at him like he still really knew who she was – how he was, in fact.

Not one for giving himself away, Spike tried to play the role. He looked around for a cigarette and asked her, “How’s that, then?” Forcibly, he listened, trying to sort himself into the right frame of mind.

It was all a load of nonsense, apparently. Willow had gone off the deep end not long after Spike had vanished, leaving an injured Dawn and a ‘permanently PMS-ing’ Buffy to look after her with no small amount of tough love. Money troubles had sent Buffy to the Doublemeat Palace, which seemed to drain any goodwill left inside of her, leaving Casa Summers a fairly unhappy place to be even before Buffy’s birthday party, which had apparently been another scene of drama, Riley’s return about a week ago.

There were clearly some if not several things that Dawn wasn’t saying. A few of them she seemed unwilling to talk about, even when Spike prodded her, and he imagined there were at least a couple more incidents he didn’t know about. It wasn’t entirely clear to him what had catalysed her decision to come and find him in the other dimension, but then Spike wasn’t sure he would ever know. All in all, it was bizarre – and far higher octane than BiBi the husky.

“So Buffy’s still having a rough time of it, then?” Spike asked as Dawn’s narrative seemed to draw itself to a halt, trying to figure out where he fit in.

The girl snorted, pulling herself up on the sarcophagus where she’d perched. “Please, Spike, is that all you think about? We’re all having a rough time of it.” Quite how she managed to sound so superior when she was, after all, about the age of a flea, Spike didn’t know. “All everyone does these days is yell,” she said seriously, like she’d been measuring it from a distance. “I try to spend time with Tara, and Willow yells about Tara. I try to stay in the house, and somebody yells about chores. When Buffy isn’t slaying she’s watching the TV like some stinky, yelling zombie. I don’t think she sleeps.”

Spike raised an eyebrow. He still felt like he didn’t know her, this Buffy, like she was the foreign creature he’d come to this dimension to find. It was difficult to put the pieces together; slide everything back into place.

“I can’t tell if she’s meaner than she was before, or what,” Dawn continued, like this was the natural course of her thoughts and she would keep going unless Spike stopped her. He’d long finished his cigarette, but was comfortable enough on the other end of the sarcophagus. “I mean, she was pretty much always a total bitch to me, if you discount that part where, you know, I was freaking out about being the Key and whatever, but I don’t know what’s up with her these days.”

“I’m not sure anyone does, Bit,” Spike replied, because it seemed like the thing to say. It was true enough.

Silence fell, and Spike’s gaze wandered around the dusty remains of his crypt, to the chair and TV that had somehow survived his absence. The lamp he’d always figured Buffy would smash his head into, had she been alive. That prophecy hadn’t come true yet, but there was still time.

What were any of them supposed to make of her, this girl who had been torn from heaven? Who’d been happy, it seemed, to leave him to rot well beyond the tentacles of Sunnydale. With a night to think about it, Spike couldn’t tell if it had been an act of malice or of mercy.

“Giles never came back, you know,” Dawn commented after a while, sounding quite sad about it. “I can’t remember if you were here when he went, but he left. Sold his apartment and everything.”

“Coward,” Spike sneered emphatically. He did remember that business, now he thought about it, and it seemed to him that if he, Spike, could make it back from a dimension where he hadn’t even heard of the Scoobies, the old man might make the effort from old Blightly.

Yet, as it was, Dawn didn’t seem to share this opinion. She shook her head, the long strains of her hair slipping across her shoulders as she ducked her shoulders. “I thought I’d never forgive you both, not for leaving us,” she admitted, sounding nothing but defeated. It made Spike’s heart break for her. “But now I just figure that staying can be worse.” She sniffed, then looked up at him, like she couldn’t believe what she was saying. “I think you should go again,” she said quickly. “I think it will be better. I think you’ll be happier.”

Spike was taken aback. Leave?

Dawn pushed her advantage. “I can come and visit you, so long as you don’t go to England,” she explained. “My friend Monica, her dad lives in Pittsburgh. She goes to see him on Thanksgiving and stuff…”

The way she was selling it, the idea almost sounded sensible. The thought took root in Spike’s brain and he figured he would think on it.

For now, though, he’d had enough of teenage misery. It got him down. “Come on,” he said, hopping down from the sarcophagus lid, filing the thought away. “How long you got before school’s back in? Know I’ve got some cards around here somewhere.”

At last, someone had a smile for him. Spike wondered if that was what he really wanted.


[Chapter Six]

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